Thursday, April 16, 2009

Animal Farm Finds a Palestinian Stage

By Mel Frykberg

RAMALLAH, Apr 15 (IPS) - "Intifadah", scream the animals as they chase Jones from the farm. Strobe lights flash and loud music blares as the packed audience sits captivated, eyes trained on the stage below.....

Freedom Theatre, in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern Palestinian West Bank, one and a half hours drive north of Ramallah, has been running a play based on George Orwell's Animal Farm that was about the corruption of revolutionaries in Stalinist Russia. The play at the refugee camp is presented with a decidedly Palestinian twist; a cast of animals eventually overthrow their human oppressor Jones, only to then turn on one another.

The play, adapted from the original Animal Farm by director Nabil Al-Raee, is about the social restrictions within Palestinian society and the corruption in Palestinian leadership. And, about the difficulties of living under Israeli occupation......

Freedom Theatre had planned to tour Ramallah with the production, but the local theatre withdrew, scared of the controversy the play would create. The Palestinian leadership based in Ramallah's government headquarters, or Muqata, does not take kindly to criticism. An application for funding for the production from a Palestinian cultural foundation was declined.

"Part of the anger generated is based on the portrayal of the revolutionaries as being as corrupt as their oppressors, or even more so," director of the theatre's drama school Samia Steti told IPS. In one of the scenes, Molly, one of the horses, runs away from the farm. "The corruption here is worse than when Jones was in control," says Molly.

The human who comes to talk business at the end of the play wears green army uniform and speaks Hebrew, a reference to the Israeli military. "It is a thinly veiled attack on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its collaboration with Israel at the expense of Palestinian citizens," adds Steti.

This is presented in several ways. After the Intifadah, the head pig, Napoleon, is flanked by two black-clad, Kalashnikov-toting dogs who dress like Palestinian security forces.

Boxer, one of the horses, remarks: "We have to be obedient to Napoleon. We have to sacrifice for him." Boxer is worked to death, and killed when he is no longer considered useful.

"Our society tends to lack a culture of questioning and free thinking," says Khamis......"

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